Monday, March 31, 2008

spring break

finishline. oilbar and white charcoal on natural linen canvas. 24" X 36". 2008

I didn't get much done over spring break. I awoke the day after my students' final exam with a sore throat. It was the day of my big dinner, which I didn't want to cancel. So I didn't. That probably didn't help things any. Last Wednesday I finally went to the doctor where I was diagnosed with pink eye (I know this disease really freaks some people out. It doesn't really freak me out. It's also rampant in the population right now, and seeing as it's highly contagious, I'm not really surprised.) AND a cold. I was a bit bummed about the last part. I was hoping that the terrible cold was being caused by the pink eye and that everything would thus go away with some antibiotics - however, I was pleasantly surprised that my cold improved very much in the first 24 hours on antibiotics, which leads me to think that some of it, at least, was The Pink Eye's fault.

Anyhow. I was also prescribed bedrest, doctor's orders. I wasn't even supposed to paint or sew or read (the above clearly demonstrates that I did not adhere to this policy 100%). So, it was a dull break, and a bit depressing. I got myself all worked up with worry about my thesis, silly worries that were dispelled this morning as I sat on a sunny bench with my coffee and my notebook in downtown SB and finished writing my Cripple of Inishmann section (by hand) in the cool air. I wish I'd just worked on it throughout spring break; I feel at least 3 times happier today than I have for the last few days.

I did work on a dress, which I may abandon once it's done (it's rather fluffy and was more an experiment in the "what happens if I ..." vein than a serious undertaking). Anyhow. I will try to finish it this week and post soon!

Friday, March 21, 2008

welcome spring!

Last night we celebrated the eve of the vernal equinox with a St. Patty's Day dinner. That may seem contradictory, but as we had other plans for Monday, and I do get cranky if I have to go more than a year without corned beef (unlike Cass, I grew up on this stuff - he's not a huge fan, but he puts up with it). Plus, spring equinox, spring meal ... what's not to love?

The rhubarb-raspberry rolypoly (above) was something I'd never made or tried before. It had come up in one of the plays I'm using for my thesis, so when I saw it in the March 2007 Bon Appetit, described as a British version of a jelly roll using a scone-like dough, I was sold on the idea! As instructed, we served it with a big dollop of the raspberry-rhubarb filling and we poured a happy pool of cream around it instead of making the vanilla custard sauce that I couldn't eat.

For dinner we served a bacon and cabbage soup (from and an Irish soda bread that I tinkered with (I soaked the golden raisins in whiskey and poured all the extra whiskey into the dough, I used milk and lowfat sour cream instead of buttermilk, which I didn't have on hand, and I spiced it up with fennel seeds and a dash of cardamom), steamed asparagus spears and the corned beef with onions, carrots and potatoes, with a mustard sauce to pair with all.

Afterward, Clareann and I had our fire. This year we used dried peppermint stalks as tinder, for a fire of eucalyptus branches, and for sweet smoke, we used pineapple sage, rosemary, and lavendar from the garden. Lavendar flowers, when burnt, produce an amazing burst of lavendar smoke. We watched the smoke, a fine white haze, drift upward a long time, and hovered around the embers till they darkened.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

happy sunday, dahling

I've been a fan of Project Alabama since the mid-90s, or so I recall. So, when I read on Tricia's bits and bobbins blog about Natalie Alabama Chanin going solo, well, of course I needed to go check out the new Alabama Chanin site, post haste! And wow. This stuff is SO. BEAUTIFUL. I love her portfolio - truly breathtaking - and the way she structures her business. She is hiring women that a.) represent an invaluable cultural resource and a dying skill set, and b.) might not have the time to commit to a regular, full-time job, and she is employing them, by piece, on their own schedule. Even more exciting, The Alabama Stitch Book - which I very much want to buy - is both a record for posterity of some of these unique techniques, and an opportunity to pass them on to new, eager learners.

To boot, there's a journal on the site with a couple of DIY projects, including the inside scoop on how to do Project Alabama/Alabama Chanin's famous "reverse applique" technique on a tee-shirt of your very own. I was SO excited to find this as I've always been fascinated by their knits, and desperately wanted to know if I could do it myself.

So, with my lady C's birthday arriving, I decided to give it a go. I've been experimenting more with giving unique, personal, handmade (or hand-altered) gifts lately, and people seem to like them. C did a presentation last year on Tallulah Bankhead in a seminar we had together, and she really seemed to have a blast with it. So! I found an old photo, printed it out, and simplified the design by hand. I didn't use paint to transfer my image, and now I'm concerned about fraying, so I'm going to fray-check all of these edges before I give it to her. I used a delicate, tissue-weight tee from Lucky Jeans with some very soft microfiber jersey to back it. The reverse applique was stitched with a light coral pink, but I used some dark purple thread to basically "draw in" some parts of the image that were too delicate for the reverse applique. I also looked up Tallulah's autograph, and kind of morphed it (she didn't write on a curve!) to incorporate it into the design - you see it there along the right side of her face.

All in all, I'm super happy with the end results, and I hope C will be, too! Happy (belated by the time I finished!) birthday, lady! I think I need one of these, too!

You may have noticed that Anthropologie is selling a Project Alabama - or is it Alabama Chanin? memory fails - tank using this technique for $120 right now. How much do you think it would cost you buy the materials? I'm just sayin'...

I'll leave you with an overall shot to give you a sense of scale:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

there now.

(click for larger image)
El Caballero y Su Sombra. (The Knight and his Shadow, created as Artist-in-Residence for Lope de Vega's "El Caballero de Olmedo.") Oilbar and charcoal on canvas. 48" x 60". 2008.

Just got everything back from the photo lab today. Finally, finally back! This 4-by-5-foot monster basically represents the product of five weeks' worth of labour - long afternoons and evenings for the first half of this quarter. With Irwin gone and Ashley in and out, I'm alone in THTR 3, my thesis is suffering, and this may well be the only real thing I have to show for this quarter. I suppose that makes it doubly satisfying.

For at night they killed
That noble soul
The jewel of Medina,
The flower of Olmedo ...

A Shadow warned
He should not go,
And it advised
He should not go,
The jewel of Medina
The flower of Olmedo.

- the Peasant's song, Lope de Vega, El Caballero de Olmedo

Sunday, March 2, 2008


seriously, look at me getting my life back on track and a bit more well-rounded. My gal pal Nat and I have been exchanging altered postcards for a while. It's surprisingly fun - a small space to manipulate, so it's free for experimentation and not so threatening as something larger or more committed. We jot a note on the back, send it off, and wait to receive one in turn. Now, I got one from Nat in January which meant it was officially my turn to respond. However, I had this thing nearly finished in late Sept/early Oct, so it's ridiculous that I didn't manage to just finish it off and send it sooner.

Like I said, getting my life back together a bit. We had a big feast last night to celebrate Clareann's birthday in advance, featuring as many of her favorites from our repetoire as we could - crispy walnut-coated warm goat cheese balls on dressed greens, roasted spring vegetables with meyer lemon beurre blanc, a lemon-mustard-herb roast chicken and lemon-lavendar sugar cookies. I baked this great new bread recipe (blueberry bread, will try to include the recipe with my fiddly changes later this week) and made syrup for cherry cordials, only to realize that I'd forgotten to purchase seltzer! I gave Clareann the long-overdue haircut I'd promised and there were gifts and we all played games and laughed ourselves silly over foolish things. By midnight, Clareann and I had teamed up to sabotage the game so we could call it a night and sleep, while everyone else conspired to keep us from pulling it off.

All in all, I think the night did the lot of us some good. It wasn't even my birthday and it sure feels like I'm the lucky girl who got the gift: I woke up feeling like I WASN'T behind the eight ball for the first time this year. WHEW! Who knew, all we really needed was a good party to let go of this burden of stress and unhappiness? So today I awoke early, despite getting to bed late, and got some things done. Now I'm going to wrap up a few details for tomorrow, try to get a bit more grading done, and hit the sack early. Life feels a little lighter, a bit happier, and I think (I hope!) to be around a bit more now.

Anyhow, that's all. The postcard uses standard postcard (well, obviously), tissue paper, a couple magazine tears that I cut all to bits, bookbinding glue, and mehndi (henna) paste. All covered with some packing tape to protect it in transit, particularly that henna.

- just to tide you over till I finish this birthday tee!